It’s widely accepted by this point that sales coaching is the activity with the greatest impact on sales effectiveness. Companies may be aware that their managers need to be spending more time coaching reps, but according to recent research by the Sales Management Association (SMA), formal coaching strategies tend to be poorly executed or non-existent. An overwhelming 77% of firms said they don’t provide enough coaching to their salespeople.
This is a fact that needs to change, since implementing an effective coaching program can help grow revenue up to 16.7% faster, according to the same research.
The Sales Coaching Best Practices Series
This month we’ll be publishing a mini-series dedicated to sales coaching best practices. Each week we’ll highlight a high-gain coaching activity that EcSell institute—a research firm specializing in sales coaching, leadership, and management—has identified through their research as having the greatest impact on a sales rep’s ability and willingness to produce at higher levels.
We’ll kick off the series with One-to-One Meetings—the time you carve out on a consistent basis to touch base with individual members of the sales team and see what’s going well, what needs help, and what action steps should follow.
Follow these 4 tips during your one-to-one sales meetings.
1. Set a regular cadence, and stick to it.
To say that you’re busy is an understatement. When your calendar is overflowing, it’s tempting to push off your one-to-one meetings, but it’s vital to dedicate a time to check in individually with each member of your team to ensure you can advise for proper corrections or performance adjustments.
Block out an hour weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly and create a regular cadence so that the meetings become routine. The structure will help both parties prepare and take the meeting seriously, and getting into the habit will reduce the temptation to postpone or cancel—even when you’re swamped.
2. Make the meeting about development, not inspection.
A meeting that is centered on a salesperson’s performance will naturally induce some level of anxiety and/or defensiveness. To ease that, don’t make the meeting an interrogation and avoid the temptation to do all the talking. Try not to focus solely on numbers, but look for trends in what they’re doing well and where they can improve. Your main purpose should be to ask questions that help your reps learn how to diagnose and solve the challenges they’re having on their own in the future.
According to research from EcSell Institute, one-to-one meetings are a critical component to motivating reps and keeping them engaged, so use the time as a chance to provide support and encouragement and make sure that they view the meetings as beneficial.
3. Keep the meeting structured and efficient.
A prepared agenda gives structure to a conversation and ensures that every pressing issue will be discussed. By following a format and touching on the same items every meeting, a cadence can be established and salespeople are more comfortable since they know exactly what to expect.
Prepare your agenda ahead of time, but make room for the conversation to veer slightly to allow for an open forum to discuss needs and ideas.
If you’re using a standard sales process you’ll be able to streamline conversations around opportunities and find out exactly how a deal is progressing just by asking 3 simple questions:
- Which step of the sales process are you in?
- How qualified is the opportunity on a scale of 1-5?
- What’s your definitive next step?
4. End with an action plan.
A meeting that fails to define what success looks like and the clear action steps needed to get there is not an efficient use of anyone’s time. By holding one-to-one meetings regularly, you’ll be able to spot performance issues early, but in order to save the opportunity you’ll need to deliver the appropriate coaching—and see to it that your recommended interventions actually receive pull-through.
Make it crystal clear what kind of follow-up behaviors are expected—as well as how you’ll be measuring those improvements—and then open the next meeting with a review of how they played out with the prospect. You can keep the momentum going in between meetings by including “check-ins”— quick calls or emails to see how new skills are developing with course correction as needed.
Frequent and open communication with your sales team members is crucial to a healthy sales culture, and scheduling and sticking to regular one-to-one meetings is a great way to foster that open communication. Make sure that the meetings feel important and beneficial to both parties involved and use the time as an opportunity to strategize, course correct, and move forward in the right direction.